On my way home from work, I said to myself, “I’m not going to write about this. I don’t care.” Welp–
As you probably know, the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize For Fiction was “No Award,” written by N.O. Novelist. It’s been 34 years since the 18 member Pulitzer Board last failed to bestow the prize to a work of fiction and, to my surprise, it’s the ninth such incident since the Prize began in 1918, according to January Magazine.
The three finalists wereÂ The Pale KingÂ by David Foster Wallace,Â Train DreamsÂ by Denis Johnson, andÂ Swamplandia!Â by Karen Russell. I haven’t read either Swamplandia! or Train Dreams, and The Pale KingÂ is currently waiting for me to crack it open once more. In other words, I have no idea if any of these three books deserve the Prize or not. Seems the Pulitzer Board had the same issue as well, given that they â€œcouldnâ€™t agreeâ€ on the winner.
Which suggests, of course, no clear frontrunner, no consensus favorite or even a publishing darling this year. Despite the award being withheld in previous years, I can’t help but feel bothered by the decision, or lack thereof. Since I wasn’t a part of the deliberations–a slight on the Pultizer Board’s part–I have no insight as to what was discussed. I can only assume there were some–shall we say–heated discussions, debates which probably became more passionate as it appeared more and more likely that an award would not be granted. Who knows?
To be clear, I do not think the “no award” decision is a critique on American fiction. It’s unnecessary to delve into hyperbole, to assign the decision to the genre as a whole, as an indictment of sorts. I could be wrong. For all I know, a juror will slip and drop a bombshell–American fiction isn’t worthy of America’s most prestigious literary award–but I doubt it. So please, let’s not make fiction–novels, specifically–the proverbial whipping boy today. David Shields doesn’t need our help.
A part of me wants to say “It’s incumbent upon the Board to select a winner,” which, according to history, wasn’t the case eight other times and certainly wasn’t the case this year. Still, one would hope for some consensus, some resignation on the Board’s part. I’m shocked–truly–that they didn’t give the award to DFW as aÂ posthumous nod to The Pale King and his overall oeuvre.
I have to give credit where credit is due–they could’ve done such a deed and no one would’ve accused them of mailing it in, so to speak. But they didn’t. Whatever the criteria used to select a winner, none of the finalists passed the test. In that sense, integrity won today. I tip my hat to the judges.
I wish they had picked a winner. Personally, I had nothing to gain today as a reader. None of my favorite novels from last year made the list, though I hope they were at least nominated. But the lack of a fiction winner leaves a hollow feeling, rather than something akin to rage or indignation–well, beyond the rage and indignation and LOLs expressed on Twitter (to which I was a party).
We wanted a winner–I wanted a winner. But as I said, respect to the Board–yes, the same individuals who I called “bitch-asses” on Twitter just a few hours ago. What can I say? I’ve had a chance to calm down. Anyway, this won’t preclude people from writing their books–good books, fantastic books, life-changing books–or, in other words, the literary world hasn’t ended. Integrity sucks. That’s the moral of the story.